Content provided by Tristis Ward
Community station-grassroots, volunteer-driven, single-station operation. The programming tends to be non-commercially oriented, community-focused.
Campus station-a community-oriented, open-access, volunteer-driven organization. Tends to be non-commercially oriented, community-focused.
Developing station - a group of volunteers, who want to build a radio station, either on campus or in the community. Some stations do not gain an FM licence for decades due to a number of reasons including population base and restrictions.
"English Language Broadcasters" - although defined as such, stations within this sector strive for multi-cultural program schedules, and may have six, eight or more languages on the air. Some Francophone stations are left out of other national organizations, and are welcome within the membership. All non-profits are welcome.
Grassroots, Hands-On Operations-community and community-Based Campus stations are run by volunteers. Staff is typically minimal and often drawn from the membership of the station, or similar station. Broadcast staff are not paid. Professional broadcasters are not hired. Some members may pursue careers in the broadcast industry, but the majority do not.
Minimal Operation Budgets-many stations survive on less than $5,000/year with borrowed and rigged equipment and antenna space. Some operate with budgets under $60,000. The larger campus stations have $100,000-$300,000 operating budgets. Few go above that. Developing stations struggle to pull together funding.
Long, Slow Growth-many of our stations are hampered by financial restrictions. They are unable, do to their lack of commercial appeal, to draw together a large enough funding base to enable them to apply for, and maintain, a licence. Committed groups have been known to struggle for decades with only hardwired, cable or special "community-base" philosophies can hamper development. Restrictions on funding are sometimes imposed for long periods. Students inside the station may strive for autonomy as a solution. Autonomous stations based on campus are becoming more prevalent.
Under Powered-many organizations still struggle to get on the air. Some are operating at 5 watts or less. While the stations are grateful for any allotment, they are gambling with longevity for the chance to prove themselves. These are not protected frequencies, and the stations are in danger of being eliminated. Spectrum scarcity is already creating an imminent threat for community-access stations in larger centres.
Spectrum scarcity - many grassroots radio projects are in their infancy. They are aware that if they are low-power stations (50 watts or less) are not protected, but they are unable to raise the funds that would put them into the protected range. The risk is that Industry Canada will allow a full power applicant to infringe on them when there are no other choices for the larger station.
Digital Radio - not-for-profit community-access radio has no means to prepare for this.
Fund Raising Malaise - like all community groups, radio stations must compete for fewer and fewer donation dollars. Because of the restrictions on charitable organizations (and the intimidating organizational barriers), they are unable to provide the incentive of a tax receipt to donors. As well, insurance costs are skyrocketing, and fund raising activities are becoming less fruitful. Advertising for non commercial-oriented radio is dismal, especially in smaller centres.
Copyright and Tariff changes - tariff organizations know little to nothing about how community-access stations operate. tariffs are often designed and proposed with commercial radio usage primarily in mind, and C/C radio stations need to be well-represented in Copyright Board processes as well as with the copyright collectives themselves. The fees from the numerous emerging groups are an increasingly threatening financial burden, and the complicated means of reporting (obviously aimed at stations which have computer logging) an organizational nightmare for the staff.
Well-funded infringement - The CBC's plans for becoming the community level broadcasters we are too under-funded to fulfil may seem like a good idea to the national network, but it will undermine community-access broadcaster, and could result in disaster for our sector. Programming for CBC 3 will very likely attract a new, younger audience, but the fundamental role we serve - that of community-access stations - will not be replaced. It will, however, become that much more difficult to justify the expense of providing resources for average people to the broadcasters, when the format is similar to this better funded alternative. Variety will be greatly reduced, and at some time I the future, the winds of change at the federal level may remove CBC 3, creating a vacuum where a once active sector stood.
Sector development - many communities do not have community-access radio. While there are constantly emerging groups who wish to form stations, the complications involved had held back some valid projects. As well, there is an obvious need for better understanding by government and private industry. The changes that are occurring with spectrum management, copyright law, the broadcast act, and the music industry requires the attention of the national organization which represents our sector, but that organization is also under-funded, and unable to keep pace with the multiple changes in the air.
There are many smaller centres within which the minority language communities rely heavily on the Campus station, or multicultural Community station for their content and participation. In smaller centres, minority language communities may never be able to construct an independent station. It benefits them greatly that there are stations in the area who function as an outlet for all people. Even if the airtime for any one culture or viewpoint is less than on a specialty station, the effect of the whole is a mosaic of sounds that reflects the diversity of the community.
Some Francophone radio stations were incubated in Campus stations while they raised money, awareness, and an audience for their efforts. Such was the case for CJPN in Fredericton, NB, which broadcast on CHSR (Campus) for four years before opening independently.
Our commitment to multiculturalism comes from the same perspective as our commitment to community-access. We believe that the airwaves of Canada belong to the people. The public is made up of many communities. Some of these overlap, others seem at odds with each other. Community-Access radio attempts to accommodate all under represented voices. This is one reason for the sound that makes our stations different from other radio stations, including the CBC.
There is no "voice" of community-access radio. We are all voices. There is no style that we expect our members to follow. The programmers who produce cultural programs from out of the diverse ethnicities and backgrounds that make up our towns and cities are dedicated to providing their own community with a voice. The advances of the Internet have allowed some of these to produce shows at our stations that are aimed at other countries. They do this without requiring public broadcast dollars and directives from the CRTC or the Broadcast Act. They are wonderful representatives of Canada to the world.